• Three Tips to Being Better Understood in The Work Place

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    “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood.” [1]

    As I read this quote I asked myself, does the responsibility of being understood professionally fall on the one who needs to be understood rather than the person doing the understanding? In a perfect world you would meet and work with people who, “just get you”, but we don’t live in a perfect world so the burden is on you, as being understood is key to moving forward in your career.

    Experts say 80-85% of our perception, learning, cognition and activities are made possible through vision. This means that if you want to be understood, you need to be sure that what people see represents what you want them to know and understand. Marketers and advertisers have long created effective selling messages through visual appeal.

    Now if the sense of sight plays the biggest role in perception, wouldn’t you say it plays a significant role in being understood? As a professional, what do you want your co-workers and managers to understand about you? The visual you project on a daily basis through your body language, facial expressions, gestures, and appearance will help you to communicate anything from, “I’m a serious no nonsense employee” to “I’m just here to collect a paycheck.”

    There is a fine line between expressing one’s individuality through styling preferences and the nonverbal messages needed to communicate the qualities that help professionals move steadily upward in their career.

    Here are three things to keep in mind:

    1. Never presume that just because you are good at what you do, you’ll be noticed and rewarded for it. People look for visual cues to confirm or contradict their perception. Susan Boyle from Britain’s Got Talent is a great example. Peoples’ perception when she walked out on stage was that she couldn’t possibility have a good voice. She was lucky because she had the opportunity to showcase her talent. Once she proved she could sing, she was coached to update her look to reflect the quality of  her talent.
    2. People perceive things differently and what you may consider to be appropriate work attire, others might see it otherwise. Just because a designer promotes their style as the new business look, it doesn’t mean it is going to send the message you need to communicate. Four inch platform shoes, fitted short skirts, and body accentuating silhouettes might be “in” but do they help you communicate your professional skill set or a different message?
    3. Visuals communicate the most universally understood language. Managers agonize over whether or not they want to put a particular employee in front of their clients or prospects. You might be wearing the right pieces to the office (suit, skirt, shirt, tie…) but how you’re wearing it and your grooming might cause your employer to pause and reconsider giving you an opportunity to become more visible as a company representative.

    Becoming aware of the visual cues of your presence will either facilitate or hinder the understanding of who you are, what you’re capable of and your career goals. You are in control of affecting how others understand you.



    [1] Nichols, Ralph G. “The Struggle To Be Human.” Paper. Presented at the International Listening Association Convention, 1980  


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    Diana Jennings
    Diana Jennings is the founder of Brand You Image – a personal branding and image management company based in Southern California. A specialist in non-verbal communication, she brings a sophisticated understanding of people and a passion for growth to those working to reach their personal and professional goals. Typical engagements involve the development of high potential individuals and senior level management in personal brand discovery, image management, social and business behavior, and body language for better communication and interaction with others.

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